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Fresh turkey prices rise 45% after shortages from bird flu outbreak

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The price of a fresh turkey centrepiece for Christmas dinner has increased by as much as 45% because of shortages caused by the bird flu outbreak, which has wiped out 1.6 million of the birds in the UK.

Not only are prices up but the choice of fresh turkey is more limited in the major supermarkets, with the number of whole bird and crown options falling by about a third this year.

This time last year consumers had 65 products to choose from but now that figure is 44, according to The Grocer magazine.

Of the 27 like-for-like products available on both dates, all but one had seen a price rise of least 12%. The average price increase was 24.4% across this group, according to the report based on data from supermarket analysts Assosia.

The biggest mover was a 45.3% increase for a Morrisons British large whole turkey to £31.44, followed by a 41.6% jump in the price of a Morrisons medium turkey to £23.45. The price of a 5kg M&S Collection organic free-range bronze turkey with giblets, sold via Ocado, saw the third-biggest rise, by 35.7% to £95.

Frozen turkeys are also more expensive, with an average price increase of 18.1% for the 49 frozen lines available both this year and last. The biggest move was a 30.8% increase in the price of a Braemoor medium British turkey crown sold in Lidl, which rose from £12.99 to £16.99.

Last month the British Poultry Council (BPC) told a hearing of the environment, food and rural affairs committee that of the total 8.5 million to 9 million turkeys produced each year for the festive period, about 1.6 million had already died of the disease or been culled.

Free-range producers had been hit “very, very hard”, according to the BPC chief executive, Richard Griffiths, who said about half of the sector’s turkeys and geese, equivalent to 600,000 birds, had been lost to the disease.

With food price inflation at its highest level since 1977, the turkey is not the only element of the traditional Christmas feast that has gone up in price, with a separate survey by Kantar predicting households will have to allow about 10% more in total.

The cost of a meal for four – including frozen turkey, carrots, cauliflower, potatoes and Christmas pudding – is £31 this year, up 9.3% from 2021, it said.